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NASA TV's This Week @NASA, August 14
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This Week At NASA...

The seven-member STS-128 crew continues to ready itself for its mission to the International Space Station. They’ll deliver the Leonardo supply module and other equipment to the International Space Station, along with a new Flight Engineer, Nicole Stott. She’ll swap out with Tim Kopra, who moved into the station during STS-127.

One crew member is first-time flyer, Mission Specialist Jose Hernandez. The Stockton, California native is the son of Mexican-born, migrant farm workers. As a child, Hernandez would follow the harvest with his parents from southern to northern California, working the fields as they went.

Jose Hernandez: "My parents put a lot of emphasis in education in spite of them only having a third grade elementary school education; they put lots of emphasis in it and the atypical portion of it was the fact that during the school year, Monday through Friday, they would put us in school, and there was a lot of families that would typically pull the kids out of school just so they could help with the household income."

Hernandez and his crewmates are working towards a launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard space shuttle Discovery targeted for later this month.

Three mirror segments that’ll go on the James Webb Space Telescope were tested at the Marshall Space Flight Center’s X-ray & Cryogenic Facility. There, the segments were chilled to minus 414 degrees Fahrenheit in the facility’s cryogenic vacuum chamber to measure their response to the simulated extremes of space.

Jeff Kegley: "We at Marshall Space Flight Center have the capability to produce the extremely cold vacuum environment that James Webb will live in, and by doing that, we allow the scientist and engineers to verify that their telescope will function properly when it gets to that extreme environment on orbit."

The James Webb Space Telescope is a large, infrared-optimized space telescope, scheduled for launch in 2014. It’s designed to search out the first galaxies that formed in the early Universe, connecting the Big Bang to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Once fully deployed, the JWST will reside in an orbit about one-and-a-half million miles from Earth.


Matt Golombek: "This meteorite is a test strip that’s been sitting on the surface of the planet for the past three-plus billion years."

The Mars Rover Opportunity’s panoramic camera took this image of a large meteorite on the red planet. Informally named "Block Island" by project researchers, the rock, about the size of a large watermelon, is composed of iron and nickel and is the largest meteorite yet found on Mars. Scientists say Block Island’s size and surface features may provide insight to the history of the Martian atmosphere.

Matt Golombek: "In order to get an object that large to land softly on Mars so that it still looks like a meteorite and not, didn’t form a crater, you need to have a thicker atmosphere five to ten times thicker than our present atmosphere. That suggests that the thicker atmosphere might have been from billions of years ago when we think water might have been more stable at the surface of Mars."

A smaller iron-nickel meteorite, called "Heat Shield Rock," was discovered by Opportunity in late 2004.

About 150 Marshall Space Flight Center student interns completed their ten-week summer program with “Intern Poster Day.” The event hosted by Marshall’s Academic Affairs Office showcased the science and engineering projects the students supported, including the Ares Upper stage and Solid Rocket Booster Integration processes. “Poster Day” also provided the interns with the chance to practice their presentation skills for future technical conferences.

The Jet Propulsion Lab has a new web site devoted to near-Earth objects – asteroids and comets that can approach Earth. "Asteroid Watch" features current information on NASA's missions to study comets, asteroids and near-Earth objects. It also provides the basic facts and the very latest in science and research on these objects, some of which have the potential to strike Earth.

Lindley Johnson: "There are objects passing within a few million miles of earth all the time, and two or three times a year there are objects that actually come between the earth and the moon, and that’s actually one of the reasons we introduced this website. We had objects that were passing close to the earth on a regular basis, and some of the news found out about that and we didn’t think that it was such a big deal, but then we realized that the public isn’t aware of this how often objects pass close to the earth."

Among the website’s other features is Don Yeoman’s Top Ten List of Asteroid Facts. Yeoman’s the manager of NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at JPL. He’s studied asteroids and comets for more than thirty years. "Asteroid Watch" also contains links to sign up for NASA's new asteroid widget and Twitter account. You can explore the new site at

Oh, and, by the way, Lindley Johnson tells us we shouldn’t worry. The Earth isn’t expected to be endangered by a wayward asteroid or comet anytime soon.

Lindley Johnson: "The closest object within the next few months that’s going to occur is going to be a little over two million miles away. It’s an object that’s only 100 meters in size, so that’s relatively small; so, nothing threatening on the horizons right now."

And that's This Week At NASA!

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